Handicapping the Costume Album

Very much looking forward to Phish in Atlantic City on Halloween, when they cover an entire album in between their usual wide-ranging sets. Handicapping the “costume album” is how Phish fans run the equivalent of a Super Bowl box game before the show. Reading through the guesses gives you some intriguing implied demographic data, including fans who can’t think of albums recorded before 1990 that might be worthy of a Trey & company send-up.

There are likely no rules for choosing a costume album, because that would take away both the fun and the surprise. But, as Rick Moranis says in “Ghostbusters,” these are more guidelines than rules:

  • Has to fit the instrumentation. No keyboards means no Page, not happening.

  • Has to fit the voicing. Zeppelin works because Page can cover Robert Plant; Trey handles David Byrne and various members of the Velvet Underground with aplomb.

  • Has to be open to interpretation, also known as being jammable. While an already extended composition such as Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” might seem to be off the table, it’s made a few appearances in the last three tour set lists. But covering another jam band’s jams triggers layered references to Mick Jagger’s “I don’t have that much jam” lyrical lament, and is less likely.

Some ideas for the musically inclined betting fan:

Traffic, “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.” October 29, 2010 had “Light up or Leave Me Alone,” played in the same venue (the first time Phish played Boardwalk Hall). The ultimate teased clue. Infinitely jammable, especially the title track.

Steely Dan, “Aja.” The session musicians on the studio album are individually as deep and wide as the members of Phish themselves, and this would be fun.

Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy.” “No Quarter” was the tease, this is the whole thing with “The Ocean” and “Song Remains the Same.” I would lose my mind.

Allman Brothers, “Eat A Peach.” So much room for exploration, so many fun references in the album art.

Rolling Stones, “Some Girls.” There are a few commercially successful songs mixed in with the completely out-of-genre tracks like “Faraway Eyes”. Then again, Phish goes bluegrass in between jams.

Also getting votes: Blues Traveller’s self-titled debut, Lou Reed’s “Rock and Roll Animal,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” (“Thunder Road” was played as a tribute to Clarence Clemons the night the Big Man loaded out).

Bottom line: it doesn’t matter. It promises to be a great night of music, and the surprise of an entire album only compounds the song-by-song surprise of a Phish show in general.

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